The Barnes & Noble Review
Anyone who witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City probably wonders, What was it like to be inside the towers after the planes hit? New York Fire Department battalion chief Richard "Pitch" Picciotto was there, inside the North Tower, evacuating survivors, when the South Tower collapsed. He and his men quickly realized they had only moments to escape before their building would fall as well. Could they shepherd everyone out in time? Could they save themselves? Readers will be spellbound -- even though Pitch himself obviously does survive, they will be furiously biting their collective nails nonetheless.
After a short tribute to the many members of "New York's Bravest" who perished that tragic day, Picciotto's recounting of September 11th begins with the usual rituals: getting his son, Stephen, off to school, seeing his wife, Debbie, off to her job, grabbing some bagels for the guys on the day shift. But when the news comes in, and all eyes in the firehouse turn toward the TV, everything changes: "Our world turned upside down and inside out and all over the place." Pitch, who was at the WTC during the 1993 bombing incident as well, immediately senses that this is no accident.
In a way, the scariest moment in the book is the frantic ride downtown to the WTC site. Everyone senses that this may well be the last such trip of their lives (and the reader, of course, knows just how true that is). Firefighters are trained to put such thoughts out of their minds, but this is no simple fire; it's what they all call "the big one."
For an ultimate "insider" look at what it was like that fateful day, Chief Picciotto's chronicle is highly recommended. (Nicholas Sinisi)
Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes & Noble.com Current Events editor.
[Richard Picciotto] has a remarkable story to tell.
When the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, Picciotto, an FDNY battalion commander, was inside it, on a stairwell between the sixth and seventh floors, along with a handful of rescue personnel and one "civilian." This outspoken account tells of that indelible day, and it will shake and inspire readers to the core. The book starts by listing the 343 firefighters who died from the attacks, setting an appropriately grave tone to what follows, which begins as the author heads to work at Engine Co. 76 and Ladder Co. 22 on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Then comes a call on the intercom, and soon he is racing down to the World Trade Center. Arriving, he dodges falling bodies, runs inside and upstairs with a battalion not his own. Early in the book, this straightforward accounting is intercut with flash-forwards to 9:59 a.m., when Picciotto, on the 35th floor of the north tower, experiences the collapse of the south tower not visually, but aurally and in his body ("the building was shaking like an earthquake... but it was the rumble that struck me still with fear. The sheer volume of it. The way it coursed right through me... like a thousand runaway trains speeding toward me"). Picciotto, writing with Paisner (coauthor of autobios by Montel Williams and George Pataki, among others), pulls no punches, naming those who hindered his work and those who helped, taking numerous swipes at what he sees as a fire department bureaucracy whose money pinching puts firefighters at risk. This mouthiness can grate, but it certainly gives the flavor of a man and a department whose heroism became clear to all that day. It's Picciotto and his comrades' courage and willingness to sacrifice that every reader will remember, and honor, upon closing this gritty, heartfelt remembrance of a day of infamy and profound humanity. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Chief Picciotto tells his story with the same hard-hitting fervor he displayed when he performed his job as FDNY Chief of Battalion 11. On September 11, 2001, Picciotto and his men entered the North Tower of the World Trade Center and, like hundreds of other firefighters and rescue workers, worked at evacuating people caught in the building, displaying the same courage as they did every day in their jobs. As someone who had helped with the original 1993 WTC bombing, Picciotto was especially knowledgeable about the situation but was as uncomprehending of the full extent of the disaster as the rest of the world, although he was at the very center of it. His minute-by-minute account of rescue efforts and especially of the time he and 12 others, including one "Brooklyn grandmother," spent trapped in a staircase after the collapse of the building, is told with calm professionalism and utter honesty. Picciotto is never "politically correct"—he is as clear about the shortcomings of his department and the decisions that have cobbled the firefighters with old equipment and morale-eroding cost-cutting efforts as he is about the courage of his fellow workers. His voice is true, the writing gripping and the firefighters' commitment to their mission unflagging. He and his collaborator write a firsthand account that is unforgettable and unique among all the stories of September 11, 2001. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Berkley, 243p.,